jedimentat (jedimentat) wrote,

H9: Istanbul's Divine Heights to Dark Depths


This was the "Day of Many Sights" for us...we began by walking the Hippodrome site, seeing the ancient columns (Constantine's column, the Serpentine column, the Obelisk..) There were very persistent street hawkers the entire time at this site...tour books, bottles of water, hats, spinning tops, repeat...
visiting Suleymaniye Mosque
(women had to wear headscarves and shoulder and leg coverings. i was shocked and disappointed by the number of tourists (european and aussie) who removed their coverings once inside. so rude.
many of the arches and marble were taken from the old Imperial Palace and repurposed
one thing I didn't know until later is that Roxelana, the famous concubine-turned-wife of Suleyman, was Ukrainian:
the women's area
the size and scale of these places were amazing
After lunch, our tour group went to the Grand Bazaar for a bit, and then to a carpet-selling store, where kingfox and I experienced the ultimate hard sell of a carpet...whew! we were lucky to escape out of there without buying a $450 Cappadocian carpet, but it was a near thing. Much apple tea was drunk during the negotiation process.

then, we went to the largest cathedral in the world for a thousand years. (360-1453, a mosque from 1453-1935, a museum from 1935 onwards when Ataturk converted it)
Through the side doors of the Aya Sofya, or Hagia Sophia. ( I thought that this church was named after a Saint Sofia, but it turns out to mean "Divine Wisdom," one of the names used for Jesus. More info here on the church
In 1453, the mosaics and frescoes were plastered over. Such a shame. A few have been uncovered, including a face of one of the cherubim which had been covered by a star. I was really surprised; I sort of pictured a ton of mosaics there, like St. Marks. I guess I have to head to Ravenna one of these days...
Emperors were crowned at this spot for centuries

we went up to the second floor, and one thing that struck me as we ascended was how the stone ramp had been worn so smooth by nearly two thousand years of people's feet..



tomb marker of Dandolo
some obliterated crosses
I find the stories of Justinian and Theodora so interesting (also, I love G.G. Kay's "Sailing to Sarantium" books)
sarcophagus of the empress irene

After our visit to the Hagia Sophia, our tour was continuing on to the banks of Asia to look at the Sultan's summer hunting lodge or something, so we elected to stay in Sultanahmet to see some other things, among them the underground Basilica Cistern

(more info on it here:
It was and kind of eerie, with 336 columns set amid the water. There were only a few feet of water, and carp swimming around, with walkways between the columns. The cistern is capable of holding 100,000 tons of water, which it imported from the Belgrade Forest north of the city, via Aqueduct. Wikipedia has a more reasonable explanation for them, but the site said that the two Medusa head columns were set into the water to prevent disease in the water.
On the side of the museum (which was perfect to visit on a hot afternoon, very cool)was a photo booth that took costume photos, so naturally, we couldn't resist...

we also stopped and had tea in the underground cafe, and checked our messages with the cafe wifi

Once again, we took the tramway back like pros, then had a nap and went to the lovely lovely pool.

After rejuvenation, we hit the street for dinner, going to the family-style "Kebap House," where the waiter thought I was kingfox's Russian girlfriend (because of ::he gestured to his eyes and boobs:: hahaha)and saw bellydancing and had Raki, the local hard alcohol of choice.

Coming up: Cappadocia

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